Posts Tagged ‘murder’

Colombia accounts for half the number of all environmental defenders murdered in 2020

March 3, 2021

On 2 March 2021 Mongabay writes about the terrible situation that of the 331 murders of environmental defenders registered worldwide in 2020, Colombia had the most murders at 177.

Impunity still reigns when it comes to the murders of human rights defenders around the world, according to the Front Line Defenders organization, in its global analysis of 2020. The analysis examined 331 homicides of leaders who fight for the defense of the land, the environment, Indigenous peoples, women and the LGBTIQ community. Of these, 177 cases occurred in Colombia.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, defenders have been exposed not only to the day-to-day risks they face from their work and the virus, but also to pressure from governments to control information. Not all of these HRDs are recognized, but the Digest counts some 50 laureates from Colombia [see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest]

Many of those killed, the report states, supported communities in their fight against COVID-19 , worked on food security issues, access to medical care and were critical of governments. For Front Line Defenders , the health crisis increased risks, especially for women defenders, leaders of the LGBTIQ community and vulnerable populations such as refugees, migrants and sex workers.

Fidel Heras Cruz traded the tranquility of a simple, quiet life for the front line of the fight against economic powers that threaten the environment. Photo: Courtesy COPUDEVER.

For Shirley Muñoz, who coordinates information systems for the Somos Defensores de Colombia, the pandemic made the state abandonment more evident. Colombia accounts for 53% of all rights defenders cases globally in 2020.

“In many territories, the control of the pandemic was exercised by illegal armed groups through fear and threats, and defenders had to be locked up in their homes, which made them more at risk,” Muñoz said in an interview with Mongabay Latam. A large number of the murders that we verified were committed in or near the defenders’ homes.”

Front Line Defenders believes that cases may continue to increase as verifications of allegations are made, and that upcoming figures from Somos Defensores de Colombia will bring the final number of deaths in 2020 higher.

According to Front Line Defenders, 69% of the murders that occurred last year occurred against leaders who worked in defense of the land, the environment and the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Report authors point out that the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has emphasized that the loss of biodiversity could put world food security at risk and Indigenous communities play a fundamental role in the conservation of ecosystems. Since 2017, Front Line Defenders has registered 327 murders of defenders of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the world.

They tried to kidnap Irma Lemus (center) on her journey into exile. Photo: Radio Progreso.

In Colombia, violence has been particularly directed against those who participate in the implementation of the Peace Agreement with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), those who are part of the initiatives to replace drug crops, and those who oppose natural resources extraction projects.

In addition to homicides, Front Line Defenders also recorded the most common types of human rights violations, which in the case of Latin America are physical attacks (27%), detentions and arrests (19%), harassment (13%), legal actions against leaders (13%), and smear campaigns (7%) .

The report notes that many defenders who were detained were also exposed to an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Even though many countries allowed the release of prisoners due to the pandemic, according to the report, defenders were not among those released despite serving sentences for “non-violent crimes.”

In the case of Colombia, it is likely that the number of attacks on defenders reported in 2020 has dropped, but this does not mean – warns Muñoz – that the violence has. The reason is that during the pandemic it is presumed that there is a large under-registration since many organizations in charge of registering this type of human rights violations were not able to monitor the territories. So, Muñoz concludes, “there were attacks, but not all of them were recorded.”

Javier Francisco Parra was shot dead in the municipality of La Macarena, Meta, Colombia. Photo: Cormacarena.

Front Line Defenders stresses that direct human rights violations were compounded by restrictive legislation that was introduced in response to the pandemic. “Several other laws were passed designed to limit the ability of human rights defenders and civil society to function well and safely. […] Other governments, including Peru, Honduras, Mexico and Panama, allowed development, deforestation and mining projects to continue despite economic closures, ”the report indicates.

Human rights defenders not only have to protect themselves from physical attacks and murder, but also from digital attacks.

In 2020, a team of Front Line Defenders protection coordinators received 304 requests for support for the following reasons: 26% received threats via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; 16% were hacked or had their social media accounts compromised; 11% reported telephone surveillance; another 11% reported physical monitoring and 9% said that devices with important information were confiscated or stolen from them.

More than a quarter of those most affected by this type of attack are human rights defenders (17%); rights of the land, the environment and Indigenous peoples (16%). Front Line Defenders claims it received dozens of reports of online gatherings – especially from LGBTIQ groups, feminists and black advocates – that were infiltrated by attackers taking advantage of security breaches

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/02/colombia-biden-violence-cauca-duque-peace-farc/

Mary Lawlor addresses Lawlessness in case of Berta Caceres and other HRDs

March 3, 2021

On 2 March 2021, Mary Lawlor – the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders – wrote for Amnesty International “Five years after Berta Cáceres was murdered, states are still failing to protect human rights defenders". With the presentation of Mary Lawlor's report to the UN Human Rights Council coming up this week, the piece is worth reading in full:

It’s five years today since environmental human rights defender Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home in Honduras. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/2AD0CEE4-80CB-3234-04B4-F2ED7ACBE6C5]

She was one of hundreds of human rights defenders killed that year because of their peaceful work, and hundreds more defenders have been killed every year since. Those responsible are rarely brought to justice. Although some have been convicted of Berta Cáceres’ killing, others believed to have been involved have still not been brought to account. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/10/nina-lakhanis-who-killed-berta-caceres-reviewed/]

It’s a familiar and continuing story, in Honduras and across the world, where those responsible for the murder of a human rights defender often enjoy impunity. This week I am presenting my latest report to the United National Human Rights Council in Geneva, and it is on the killings of human rights defenders and the threats that often precede them.

At least 281 human rights defenders were killed in 2019, with a similar number expected to be recorded for 2020. Unless radical, immediate action is taken we can expect hundreds more murders again this year.

Since 2015, at least 1,323 defenders have been killed. While Latin America is consistently the most affected region, and environmental human rights defenders like Berta Cáceres often the most targeted, it is a worldwide issue. At least 281 human rights defenders were killed in 2019, with a similar number expected to be recorded for 2020

Between 2015 to 2019, human rights defenders were killed in at least 64 countries, that’s a third of all U.N. member states. Those collecting the data agree that underreporting is a common problem. The number of defenders killed is likely significantly higher than the figures we have.

We know that on every continent, in cities and the countryside, in democracies and dictatorships, governments and other forces threatened and killed human rights defenders. Many, like Berta Cáceres, are killed in the context of large business projects.

Why do so many governments and others kill human rights defenders working peacefully for the rights of others? Partly because they can, safe in the knowledge that there is unlikely to be the political will to punish the perpetrators.

While some states, particularly those with high numbers of such killings, have established dedicated protection mechanisms to prevent and respond to risks and attacks against human rights defenders, defenders often complain that the mechanisms are under-resourced.

And in too many cases, businesses are also shirking their responsibilities to prevent attacks on defenders or are even responsible for the attacks.

These murders are not random acts of violence that come out of nowhere. Many of the killings are preceded by threats. As Amnesty International noted, Berta Cáceres’ murder “was a tragedy waiting to happen,” and she had “repeatedly denounced aggression and death threats against her. They had increased as she campaigned against the construction of a hydroelectric dam project called Agua Zarca and the impact it would have on the territory of the Lenca Indigenous people.”

And yet her government failed to protect her, as so many governments fail to protect their defenders. Since I took up this mandate in May last year I have spoken to hundreds of human rights defenders. Many have told me about their real fears of being murdered, and have shown me death threats made against them, often in public.

They tell me how some threats shouted in person, posted on social media, delivered in phone calls or text messages, or in written notes pushed under a door. Some are threatened by being included on published hit lists, receiving a message passed through an intermediary or having their houses graffitied. Others are sent pictures through the mail showing that they or their families have been under long-term surveillance, while others are told their family members will be killed. It’s not that complicated. It’s up to states to find the political will to prevent killings by responding better to threats against human rights defenders, and to hold murderers to account

I’ve been told by defenders about a coffin being delivered to the office of an NGO; a bullet being left on a dining room table in their home; edited pictures of them being posted on Twitter, showing them having been attacked with axes or knives; and an animal head being tied to the door of their organization’s office.

Those advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights, and women and transgender human rights defenders, are often attacked with gendered threats, and targeted because of who they are as well as what they do. Women and LGBTI people demanding rights in a patriarchal, racist, or discriminatory contexts often suffer specific forms of attack, including sexual violence, smears and stigmatisation.

The murders of human rights defenders are not inevitable, many are signalled in advance, and yet governments fail, year after year, to provide enough resources to prevent them, and fail, year after year, to hold the murderers to account. In fact, states should not only end impunity but also publicly applaud the vital contribution that human rights make to societies.

This week I’ll again remind the U.N. that their members are failing in their moral and legal obligations to prevent the killings of human rights defenders. It’s no use for government officials to wring their hands and agree that the murder of Berta Cáceres and other defenders is a terrible problem and that someone should do something about it.

It’s not that complicated. It’s up to states to find the political will to prevent killings by responding better to threats against human rights defenders, and to hold murderers to account.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/asesinato-berta-caceres-estados-siguen-sin-proteger-defensores/

DR Congo should reopen inquiry into murder of Floribert Chebeya

February 12, 2021

A man wearing a T-shirt with portraits of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana attends the trial in Kinshasa on April 30, 2013 of policemen accused of killing the two men in 2010.
A man wearing a T-shirt with portraits of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana attends the trial in Kinshasa on April 30, 2013 of policemen accused of killing the two men in 2010. © 2013 Junior D. Kannah/AFP via Getty Images

On 11 February 2021 Human Rights Watch stated that The Democratic Republic of Congo government should reopen its investigation into the 2010 double murder of the leading human rights defender Floribert Chebeya and his driver, Fidèle Bazana, following new revelations about the case. Amid allegations reported by international media outlets that the murders were carried out on the orders of the police chief at that time, Gen. John Numbi, Human Rights Watch called for a credible, impartial, and independent inquiry.

On February 8, 2021, in radio interviews with Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Deutsche Welle, two Congolese police officers in exile admitted to taking part in the murders of Chebeya and Bazana on the premises of police headquarters on June 1, 2010 and provided a detailed account of the murder. At a meeting in April 2019, President Felix Tshisekedi personally told Chebeya’s wife and human rights groups that he was committed to conducting an impartial investigation into the murder.

President Tshisekedi should put his words about investigating the Chebeya murder into action,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The latest revelations show the need for a new inquiry and present the best chance to see that justice is done.

On June 1, 2010, Chebeya received a telephone call asking him to attend a meeting at General Numbi’s office. The next day, the police said that Chebeya had been found dead in his car in the Mont Ngafula area of Kinshasa, the capital. The body of his driver, Bazana, is still missing.

Speaking to RFI and Deutsche Welle from an undisclosed location abroad, the former police drivers Hergil Ilunga and Alain Kayeye revealed details about the plan to kill Chebeya and how it was carried out. They alleged that police officers asphyxiated Chebeya and Bazana, one after the other, in different police vehicles at the police headquarters.

They admitted to taking part in the murders and covering them up on the orders of Col. Daniel Mukalay, then the police intelligence chief, and Christian Ngoy, then the commander of the feared Simba battalion. The two former drivers said that both senior officers were acting upon Numbi’s instructions.

Ilunga and Kayeye said they would be ready to face justice if their safety were guaranteed. They claimed to have fled Congo in late 2020 for fear of their lives as Numbi was allegedly looking to kill them.

Chebeya was among Congo’s most vocal human rights defenders, regularly exposing abuses by the country’s security services and successive governments over many years. He was threatened and intimidated repeatedly by Congolese authorities because of his work. He received the now defunct Reebok award: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BA601D45-292F-61CB-530A-17FE52D5F974

Following a widely criticized trial by a military court – with a first verdict in June 2011 and an appeal decision in September 2015 – four police officers were found guilty of murdering Chebeya and Bazana. Ngoy, along with Paul Mwilambwe and Jacques Mugabo, were tried in absentia and sentenced to death. Mukalay, the highest-ranking officer on trial, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and is currently serving his sentence at Kinshasa’s central prison. The military court also found the Congolese government at fault and ordered it to pay damages to the families of both victims.

When the trial began in November 2010, Numbi, then police inspector general, was presented to the court as a witness even though he was widely suspected to be behind the murders. In 2014, one of the fugitives, Mwilambwe, resurfaced in Senegal, where he accused Numbi of orchestrating the murders. Senegalese authorities opened an investigation and Mwilambwe was indicted in January 2015. But the proceedings stalled, and the investigation is ongoing in Senegal. Mwilambwe, a presumed key witness, has since moved to Belgium and has also said he was ready to stand trial. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/13/indictment-in-senegal-a-breakthrough-in-the-congolese-chebeya-bazana-case/]

On September 3, 2020, Ngoy was arrested in Lubumbashi and immediately transferred to Ndolo military prison in Kinshasa for possession of illegal weapons. Following his arrest, Congolese human rights organizations said that the authorities should reopen the Chebeya case.

Following these new revelations, over 100 Congolese human rights groups called for the immediate arrest of Gen. Numbi and the reopening of Chebeya’s case. Ambassadors in Congo from the EU, Belgium, and the US have also all publicly backed reopening the inquiry. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office said it was “available to assist the judiciary in shedding light on the despicable murder of Chebeya and Bazana.”

“The Chebeya and Bazana families have yet to learn the full truth and obtain justice for the gruesome killings of their loved ones,” Fessy said. “With these new revelations, the Congolese government needs to act. The judiciary should provide safe conditions to hear those who have come forward while General Numbi and other senior officials implicated in the murders should be fully and fairly investigated.”

Note the latest: https://www.theafricareport.com/74437/drc-general-john-numbi-implicated-in-the-chebeya-case-has-fled-the-country/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/11/dr-congo-reopen-inquiry-prominent-activists-murder

Film The Dissident – about Khashoggi’s murder – soon available for streaming

December 10, 2020

On 9 December 2020) the NEW-York based Human Rights Foundation announced that THE DISSIDENT, a new feature film directed by Academy Award-winning director Bryan Fogel and produced by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), will arrive on streaming platforms for viewers to rent or own beginning 8 January, 2021. Briarcliff Entertainment, the film’s distribution partner, has also announced a limited national theatrical release on Friday, December 25.

The film exposes the labyrinth of deceit behind the high-profile October 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Featuring never before seen surveillance footage and unprecedented access to a wealth of other damning information previously unavailable to the public, the film weaves together a story of courage, money, power, tyranny, love, and technology run amok. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/

THE DISSIDENT is a chilling illustration of what results from unchecked power,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “It shines a powerful light on the darkness of authoritarianism. Dictatorships are undone by public exposure and we are committed to taking this story across the world, enlisting the partnership of the general public and civil society across the political and ideological spectrum to hold MBS and his henchmen accountable.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/the-dissident-release-december-25?e=f80cec329e

Fikile Nsthangashe: “I will die for my people” and she did..

November 2, 2020

Portrait of a Community Activist

In the Daily Maverick of 1 November 2020 Estelle Ellis tells the sad story of murdered land rights defender Fikile Ntshangase in South Africa

A strongly worded statement from a large number of civil society organisations in South Africa has condemned the death of KwaZulu-Natal community activist Fikile Ntshangashe who was gunned down in her home last week as lawyers were preparing for a groundbreaking appeal fighting an order that her community organisation and those who assisted them should pay for a failed attempt to stop further mining operations in the area.

I refused to sign. I cannot sell out my people. And if need be, I will die for my people.” This was the quote that activists remembered Mama Fikile Nsthangashe by after she was gunned down in her home at Ophondweni near Mtubatuba on 22 October 2020.

As the vice-chairperson of a sub-committee of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), she was deeply involved in the challenge against the further expansion of a large coal mine at Somkele in KwaZulu-Natal by Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd. She was described by her fellow activists as a strong, passionate and principled leader.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court of Appeal will hear one of Nsthangashe’s final stands – an appeal in the case brought by MCEJO to stop the mining operations in the area.

According to a joint statement issued by environmental rights NGO Groundworks; Earthlife Africa; Global Environmental Trust, Mining Affected Communities United in Action, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation, the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and Women Against Mining United in Action the South African Police were called on to act swiftly and arrest those responsible for her death.

The statement alleges that four gunmen arrived at Ntshangashe’s home on 22 October 2020 at about 18:30. Her 11-year-old grandson was with her. She was shot five times and died at the scene.

“Tendele’s coal mining operations have caused untold destruction of the environment and the homes and livelihoods of the residents of Somkhele,” the statement reads. “Over the past few months, tension has been rising in the community over the proposed expansion of Tendele’s operations, and [her organisation’s] opposition to that expansion … Recently, Tendele was pushing for an agreement to be signed between MCEJO and Tendele to the effect that MCEJO would withdraw its Court challenges of Tendele’s expansion of its coal mine at Somkhele. Mama Ntshangase refused to sign the agreement, which certain of her fellow sub-committee members signed, purportedly doing so on behalf of the organisation … She warned sub-committee members that they had no power to make decisions on behalf of MCEJO and that the agreement only benefited Tendele. She also refused to attend any of the secret meetings that other sub-committee members held with Tendele. Days before her brutal killing, Mama Ntshangase stated her intention to write an affidavit, revealing that sub-committee members had spoken to her of a payment of R350,000 in return for her signature,” she added.

According to the statement the expansion of the mine would require the relocation of 21 families (19 of them MCEJO members) from their ancestral land. Many of these families have lived on their land for generations.

We mourn the senseless tragedy of Mama Ntshangase’s murder, and condemn her killing. We call on the South African Police Service to act swiftly to arrest and prosecute her murderers,” the statement concluded.

Martin Mosweu from the Southern Africa Resource Watch said he was deeply saddened and angered by the killing of Ntshangase.

She was hailed as a courageous human rights defender by her community for standing against the Tendele Coal Mine expansion in violation of the right to a safe environment. The murder of Fikile Ntshangase is a cause of concern to the work of human rights defenders in South Africa and in the SADC region. Governments are failing in their international obligations to the Declaration of Human Rights by not protecting and supporting human rights defenders in the context of their work. In Southern Africa, people who live near mines continue to face threats of violence and intimidation from mining companies who blatantly disregard their socio-economic, land, and environmental rights. Human rights defenders continue to be threatened and killed for standing up against powerful mining companies that violate human rights, often with impunity and tacit support from governments. This is why many mining communities throughout the region are now taking a stand and demanding a new order, insisting on extractive projects that secure a beneficial win-win relationship, free and prior informed consent in involuntary displacements, and community engagement in all stages of the mining cycle for inter-generational sustainable livelihoods,” he added.

Papers filed at the Supreme Court of Appeal for a hearing on Tuesday, in one of the last battles that Ntshangase had been passionately fighting on behalf of her community, has painted a stark picture of the conflict in the area.

The appeal, brought by MCEJO and the Global Environmental Trust is against the refusal by the Pietermaritzburg High Court to issue an interdict to stop mining operations in the area.

The community claimed that the mine did not have the necessary environmental authorisation, lacked land use authorisation, had not removed or altered the traditional graves in the area according to law and had failed to comply with the Waste Act.

The mine, however, argued that it had all the valid mining rights and permissions to carry on with its operations. In papers filed at court, lawyers for Tendele, stressed that their operations were conducted in terms of valid Mining Rights and Environmental Management Programmes granted and approved by the Department of Mineral Resources in 2006 and that while the legislative framework had changed there were transitional measures put in place for mines like Tendele.

This, according to papers before court included the waste management at the mine.

According to papers filed at the Supreme Court of Appeal the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), represented by advocate Max du Plessis SC; intervened in the matter because of its concerns that the judgment opened the door for mining companies to operate illegally. The CER also expressed its concern over a cost order made in the original case as this “would discourage communities from approaching the courts to defend their constitutional rights through the fear of being debilitated by having to pay the legal costs of industry and the state”.

For another land issue in South Africa, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/30/rural-women-in-south-africa-win-landmark-case-in-court/

Agnes Callamard calls overturned verdict in Khashoggi case “parody of justice”

September 9, 2020

An independent UN human rights investigator called the overturned verdict of Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a “parody of justice” that spared “high-level” plotters.  At a regular press briefing on Tuesday, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, (OHCHR), quoted Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, in saying, “they came at the end of a process which was neither fair nor just, or transparent“. [for earlier posts on Khashoggi, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

In October 2018, the 59-year-old columnist for The Washington Post was killed and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Saudi prosecutors in Riyadh had convicted eight people for the brutal murder. However, on Monday, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences in a final ruling that jailed eight defendants for between seven and 20 years, according to Saudi State media.

The press briefing came on the heels of a series of tweets from the independent UN expert who reacted disparagingly to Monday’s verdict. “The five hitmen are sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but the high-level officials who organized and embraced the execution of Jamal Khashoggi have walked free from the start – barely touched by the investigation and trial,” Ms. Callamard tweeted.

As for the individual responsibility of the person on top of the State”, the independent UN expert upheld, “the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he has remained well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country“. She stated that “the Saudi Prosecutor performed one more act today in this parody of justice”, adding “but these verdicts carry no legal or moral legitimacy”.

Brazil remembers Sister Dorothy Stang murdered 15 years ago

February 13, 2020

Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is pictured in a 2004 file photo in Belem, northern Brazil.  (CNS/Reuters)

12 February 2020 was the 15th anniversary of Sr. Dorothy Stang‘s assassination in the Amazon region of Brazil. The nun was 73 when she was murdered on 12 February, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu. She had lived in the country for nearly four decades and was known as a fierce defender of a sustainable development project for the Amazon forest. The U.S.-born nun is remembered as a crusader for the poor and the landless and for her love of the land and the Amazon forest.

Lise Alves, for the Catholic News Service, wrote about her on 12 February 2020:

She taught me how to be a missionary in Brazil; she was my mentor,” Sr. Rebeca Spires told Catholic News Service. Spires, who, like Stang, is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, said the first thing Stang gave her was Brazil’s land statute. “She was all about doing things within the law,” said Spires.

…She said that, in the early 2000s, Stang started to pressure public officials to combat land invasions by ranchers and large landowners, who wanted to take away areas occupied by smaller farms. The officials “became extremely irritated with her, with her persistence,” Spires said. “Although threatened with death, Dorothy never failed in her life’s mission, to fight for the poor of the land, so that they had their rights guaranteed and a dignified life,” read the statement issued by the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission to mark Stang’s death.Mary Cohen, a lawyer in Belem and a member of the Brazilian bishops’ justice and peace commission, was president of the human rights commission at Brazil’s lawyer association when Stang was in Anapu. Cohen remembered Stang’s determination, as the nun pushed and pressured government agencies into taking action. “She once slept on the steps of the INCRA (Institute for Agrarian Reform) so they would talk to her. She had a lot of determination, and that invigorated all of us,” said the lawyer. That determination made many people in the region angry. Trying to reduce the tension between landowners and peasants and their advocates, the lawyer’s association gave Stang a human rights award two months before she was killed.

We thought that more media attention and recognition of her work would keep her safe, that they (landowners and ranchers) would be deterred. We were wrong,” said the lawyer. And although Stang’s assassination made international headlines and caused worldwide commotion, those who continue her work say the threats today to the landless and their advocates are even greater. “There are still a lot of people being threatened, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize anyone’s life,” Sr. Jane Dwyer, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur who worked closely with the murdered nun, told CNS.

Dwyer, who still lives in Anapu, told CNS she was uneasy about giving interviews over the telephone. She said that, since 2015, 19 landless, small-scale farmers had been assassinated over land conflicts in the area. “Nineteen in the last five years,” she said. “Of the 19 assassinations, in only one did authorities bring someone to justice,” added Spires, who works with the Brazilian bishops’ Indigenous Missionary Council in Belem. Cohen said those who speak out today against the rich and powerful in the region continue to be threatened. “Her successor, Father Amaro (Jose Amaro Lopes de Souza), continues to be threatened, and when they were unable to scare him off, they accused him of extortion and inciting violence among landless peasants,” she said…

“The synod document is titled ‘Querida Amazonia’ (Beloved Amazonia), which … embodies what Sister Dorothy spoke of her entire life: ‘Dear Amazon, we are here to defend you, to protect you. Dear people of the Amazon, we are here to help you in your fight, in your resistance, in the recognition of your rights.'”

In-depth investigative report on journalist Miroslava in Mexico

December 30, 2019

On 6 September, 2019 the  Bellingcat Investigation Team published a piece “Miroslava: The Journalist Who Refused to be Complicit“.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/24/new-national-award-to-honor-slain-mexican-journalists/]. It is a very detailed report and worth reading in full:

Miroslava Breach lived under constant threat starting in March 2016, when she began to feel pressure over her publications regarding links between drug cartels and politics. She brought this to the attention of her old friend, the recently elected governor of Chihuahua state Javier Corral, as well as those in charge of the mechanisms at the federal level to protect journalists. The Colectivo 23 de Marzo is made up of Mexican journalists in collaboration with Forbidden Stories, Bellingcat and Centro Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Periodísticas (CLIP). We reconstructed the thread of threats linked to Miroslava’s work, the warnings that she raised about the danger she was in, and the clues that she let in her publications prior to her murder on March 23 2017 that the authorities did not fully investigate.

Miroslava Breach in the Tarahumara sierra. She investigated illegal logging, the effects of megaprojects, and narcopolitics. Source: Colectivo 23 de Marzo

Before her murder, a grey Malibu prowled down José María Mata street in the Granjas neighbourhood of Chihuahua. Security cameras captured the vehicle on the street six times between March 21 and 22 2017 as it passed in front of the two-story house now infamous for the murder: number 1609, with its brown gates and a small garden out front. On the morning of March 23, 2017, journalist Miroslava Breach Velducea was shot to death while waiting inside her car to take her son to school.…….

https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2019/09/06/miroslava-the-journalist-who-refused-to-be-complicit/

Can the UN do more to resolve Khashoggi’s murder?

October 3, 2019

Agnès Callamard
Callamard is speaking on the subject at Columbia University.

Exactly a year after Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, remains categorical: UN Secretary-General António Guterres can and should do more about the murder, and so should member states. “I am asking the secretary-general of the United Nations, the various heads of states, including in Europe, Canada and Australia, to speak publicly about the situation and to do so in places and circumstances where it is difficult to do it,” Callamard told PassBlue. “The demand I am making should not carry a heavy political cost if it is done in a more collective fashion.”In her June report investigating the murder of Khashoggi — the only official UN word on the matter — Callamard called on Guterres and UN member countries to launch an international criminal investigation and asked heads of state to rally against Saudi Arabia’s blatant attack on freedom of the press. See https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/19/news-un-expert-agnes-callamard-says-saudi-arabia-is-responsible-for-extrajudicial-killing-of-khashoggi-and-calls-it-international-crime/

Callamard also explored other options to hold the perpetrators accountable in Turkey and in the US, saying in the report, “The killing of Mr Khashoggi thus constitutes an international crime over which other states should claim universal jurisdiction.

 

Callamard supports the notion of a Security Council resolution — which are legally binding — to call on countries around the world to unite behind a push to resolve the murder. But that’s easier said than done. Saudi Arabia, an influential, oil-rich country in the troubled Middle East, has a record of human-rights abuses, but it is often left alone by the UN Human Rights Council (of which it is currently a member) and other nations, including democratic ones in the West. Amal Clooney, Britain’s special envoy on media freedom, told The Guardian on Oct. 1 that “she expected a specialist legal panel, set up by the UK government and due to report soon, to champion a new standing UN investigatory mechanism into such killings.” It is unclear if other permanent members of the Security Council besides Britain — China, France, Russia and the US, some of them close allies and big suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia — are willing to stick their necks out to defend press freedom and pursue the gruesome murder of a 59-year-old journalist who worked for one of America’s most prestigious newspapers.

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, has traveled the world to ask countries to help resolve the murder. She was warmly greeted in many of them, she said at a conference at Columbia University, in New York, on Sept. 27, speaking through an interpreter. But not only did they resist her request for action, “they never said anything negative against Saudi Arabia.” Even members of the European Union, known to be outspoken about human-rights violations, have shown no formal or informal support to act.

Callamard, who is French and directs the Global Freedom of Expression project at Columbia University, said that she, too, traveled to many European countries during her investigation, and while they cooperated with her, none offered to help. She said she hoped that European and other Western countries, including the US and Canada, would unite to denounce Saudi Arabia’s crime in a more concerted way. (The US did denounce the murder but left it to the Saudi government to handle the case.)She worries that letting the case go will set a precedent, sending the message that persecuting journalists is something any country is free to do with impunity.

 

 

https://www.passblue.com/2019/10/02/the-un-can-do-much-more-to-resolve-khashoggis-murder-says-agnes-callamard/

NGOs remember 10th Anniversary of Natalia Estemirova’s murder

July 15, 2019

On the 10th anniversary of the murder of Natalia Estemirova, Chechnya’s most prominent human rights defender, nine international and two Russian human rights groups, jointly with FIDH and its member organization, Human Rights Centre “Memorial,” call on the Russian authorities to finally fulfil their obligation to conduct a thorough, impartial and effective investigation into her killing, bring the perpetrators to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts, and end impunity for human rights violations in Chechnya.